The Strathcona Regional District is not keen on putting climate change warning labels on the region’s gas pumps.
Directors recently listened to a presentation from Matt Hulse who has been travelling the province representing the group Our Horizon.
Hulse, and Our Horizon, are advocating for implementation of the labels on every gas pump across B.C.
The labels, which are mounted on a special pump handle, depict a caribou and baby caribou walking across a frozen tundra with the words: ‘Warning. Use of this fuel product contributes to climate change which may put up to 30% of species at a likely risk of extinction.’
Hulse said the labels are a way to educate people that burning fossil fuels has a negative impact on the environment.
“Our labels will introduce feedback at the very moment people are pumping gas, linking cause and effect,” Hulse said at last week’s Wednesday regional district meeting. “We’re trying to put responsibility in the palm of every day fossil fuel burners, linking them to the problem itself.”
Hulse added that the labels are supposed to work like the graphic warnings on cigarette packages.
“Once people realized the increased cost to taxpayers because of the burden on our health care system, people became more amenable to higher taxes on cigarettes and no smoking zones,” Hulse said. Similar to tobacco products, Hulse added that he would be “quite on board” with higher taxes on gasoline.
“If gas prices go up, the better. It’s the only way we’re going to make people change their behaviour,” Hulse said. “Like cigarettes, we should take them out of use and look at alternative services.”
That alarmed Sayward Director John MacDonald who said rural communities within the regional district don’t have the option of using alternative transportation methods and rely on their vehicles for mobility.
“It concerns me when you say you want to see gas prices go up,” MacDonald said. “Many of us don’t have a transit system we can use. I can’t get from Sayward to here (Campbell River) unless I drive.”
Campbell River Director Charlie Cornfield suggested directors, if they felt so inclined, could stick a label on a gas pump the next time they fill up, rather than all gas stations being legislated to do so.
“Here’s an idea, why not just give us these labels with the sticky on the back and we can peel it off and if a director so wishes, they can stick it on the gas pump the next time we go and there, it’s done and we participated,” Cornfield said. “Because if it’s mandated as a law to do, there’s going to be a cost associated and it will be an inflated cost passed on to the retailer.
Area A Director Gerald Whalley, meanwhile, said he disagrees that the labels are necessary.
“I disagree with your basic premise,” Whalley said. “There are many scientists who say that carbon emission is not the main cause, that there are other causes. So I don’t support the province-wide advertisement on fossil fuels. I don’t think it’s going to change the planet.”
Hulse disagreed with Whalley, citing a recently leaked email written by an ExxonMobil climate expert in 1981.
“It says that they indeed knew about climate change, as early as the late 1970s, but withheld information from the public and that they funded a climate change denial campaign,” Hulse said. “So when we see scientists disputing climate change we often find they’re funded by oil companies.”
Nevertheless, the board of directors simply received Hulse’s presentation and took no further action. Hulse had requested the board write a letter to Premier Christy Clark urging implementation of the labels.
The City of Campbell River, meanwhile, was in receipt of a letter from Hulse requesting he be allowed to make a presentation to city council at its Sept. 14 meeting. Hulse, however, was not on the agenda as a presenter at that meeting and council simply received the letter, taking no further action. North Vancouver is the only municipality to go ahead with the labels.